Tim Davies wrote this post about the ROI of social media versus the ROI of printed materials, which Beth Kanter pointed to here. It’s an interesting poke into the idea of establishing the ROI of social media, and asks what is the return on printed pamphlets or brochures?
Of course, many brochures, leaflets, postcards, etc, go unread and unresponded to. A return rate of perhaps 5-7% is, I think, considered decent for direct mail campaigns, depending on the quality of your list.
This got me thinking about something a mentor of mine likes to say, which is that
We know that 50% of our billboards work. The problem is, we don’t know which 50%.
This is, of course, true for all advertising. And the 50% part is pretty optimistic, honestly.
A great point that Tim makes is that, unlike a blog post, a brochure can’t tell you if it was read or not. A brochure hardly ever gets sent back to you with comments on it. People can’t find your brochure by googling your organization’s keywords. Even if you do have most of your brochure’s content on your “corporate” website, Google is likely going to ignore it unless you update your website’s content daily, like a blog.
Do you want people to be able to find you when they are searching for something like you, whether or not they know you exist? Google prizes fresh content, and nothing serves up fresh content like a blog.
A blog, of course, is only one form of social media. But it’s one that most mainstream folks have at least heard of, and have some sort of handle on how it works. It’s a good first dip into social media, mostly, I think, because the traffic measurements are built right into most blogs.
Some say that you should get social media neophytes started with an RSS feed, for instance by setting up an “ego-search” on the person or organization in question. This is a good idea, as long as you know that people are, in fact, talking about the person or organization in question. If not, that might be a less than rewarding experiment that proves the opposite of what you are trying to prove.
And what are we trying to prove?
That there is a conversation going on out here, whether you know it or not. If you’re not a part of it, you are going to become more marginalized, not less.
The evidence clearly shows that traditional methods of marketing — especially in the nonprofit sector — are fading in effectiveness, and fading fast. As donors and members slowly, inevitably change their habits, doesn’t it make sense to be ready for those changes?
The best way to get started is to start eavesdropping. Start listening in. Choose some blogs to read and read them every day, whether in a newsfeed or not. Comment once in a while. As I’ve said before, the time to start learning a new language is not the day you get your passport stamped.